Monday, July 18, 2011

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Book: Born to Run
Author: Christopher McDougall
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year: 2011 (Originally published in 2009)
Reason I read it: It was required for my YA lit class. It is also the book that is the required read for all students at Appalachian this year.
My grade: B+

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.
Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

My Review

I thought I would hate this book. After all, I hate running and I’m not interested in learning anything about it. So I thought.

Instead, I now feel inspired to go buy some of those Vibram Five Finger Shoes like Barefoot Ted and start training for an ultra marathon.


This book was really inspiring and life altering. I really do think I’m going to start running. I really am going to buy some barefoot shoes. With a severe bout of plantar fasciitis taking hold of my feet, this book came at just the right time.

I loved the storytelling style of the author. It kept bugging me because the book reminded me of something. And then it hit me. This book is like “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” for runners! Chris McDougall is Tom Wolfe, but Caballo Blanco is like Ken Kesey and all the runners are like the Merry Pranksters. But, instead of looking to attain nirvana through LSD and the Grateful Dead, they attain nirvana through running!

In addition to the marvelous story about all the runners and the Tarahumara Indians, the book also makes a good case for the scientific basis of running. It was like a strange mixture of biology, biography, anthropology and spirituality.

I’ve even been inspired to re-adopt my vegetarian diet!

So why a B+? There were times when the descriptions of the running and trails just got to be too much. I found myself bogged down in the descriptions. If I were a runner, I probably would have liked them, but as a current non-runner, I really didn’t.

Now, I don’t think this is a YA book. I think there might be specialized populations in a high school that would like this book, but this is not a book to hand to the average 16 year old. In fact, I’m thinking that the average freshman at ASU will not really appreciate this book. The average senior there would be more likely to.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book despite my initial misgivings. I am really glad that I read it. Now, I have to go shop for barefoot shoes on Amazon. Run to the bookstore and get this book. : ) (pun intended!)

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